The Magic of CAPES

The Most Bewitching of Garments Remerges This Spring in New Renditions That Are Surprisingly Wearable

There’s something about capes that’s inherently magic. And I’m not just saying that because, they’re the central component of a superhero or an illusionist’s ensemble. I’m thinking more Bianca Jagger in her famous jeans-and-cape look from the Bardley Pop Festival in 1972. If she had worn a trench coat, she would have looked just fine, and it would have provided perfunctory warmth. But the cape makes the outfit magical. To eschew the overcoat and choose the cape is an act of boldness, a symbolic insurrection. With each flounce of the fabric, you announce to the world, “Most women don’t wear capes, but I am not most women.”


A cape in its most rudimentary form is a sleeveless swath of fabric draped over the shoulders. It is perhaps the oldest garment in the history of apparel. And despite the fact that they’ve been popping up on runways as long as there have been runways, capes have never really been dominant in mainstream style. They just turn up each season in limited numbers on women who have decided that they are the kind of women who wear capes.

Despite their esoteric association, capes are remarkably easy to wear, and there is a silhouette and cut that flatters every body type. A good rule of thumb is to pair your manteau with a fitted garment on your lower half–such as leggings or a pencil skirt–to contour your physique. And remember: wearing a cape is enough of a statement, try to keep the rest of your look on the uncomplicated side so you aren’t mistaken for an attendant at the Renaissance Faire.

Silhouette, cut and fabric don’t mean a thing if you don’t tend to think of yourself as a Woman Who Wears Capes. But the most powerful way to invoke boldness is to just take a leap. I’ve ferreted out 13 exquisite designs that may very well rouse your Cape-Wearing alter ego. And once you join the sisterhood, you’ll realize that capes might not enable you to fly through the air or perform sorcery, but they are definitely magic.

Stella McCartney Wool Coat Cape with Volcano Embroidery

A Black cape has the unique property of being simultaneously basic and yet extraordinary. The volcano embroidery on this Stella McCartney design conjures the power of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire and volcanoes. It is a timeless showpiece that will never tire of wearing, although you may tire of people inquiring as to where you procured it.

$2,850, neimanmarcus.com

Burberry Reversible Cape in Khaki & Tartan Red

This practical Burberry cape provides protection from the elements and classic style all at once. It is reversible, so the same garment can be worn in solid khaki or in Burberry’s signature tartan red.

$837, neimanmarcus.com

Johanna Ortiz Embroidered Satin Cape

Columbian designer Johanna Ortiz combines Latin American sensuality with the luxurious construction of French couture. Her clothes are expressly for the woman who is fearless enough to experiment with her style and sufficiently well-heeled to finance her ventures.

$2,250, neimanmarcus.com

Brandon Maxwell Cape Sleeved Jacket

Capes sometimes have a tinge of hippie style because of their momentary trendiness in the 1970s. But this Brandon Maxwell Cape-Sleeved jacket is more Jackie O than Stevie Nicks. It’s the perfect foray into capedom for a woman who doesn’t ordinarily think of herself as that type.

$2,895, neimanmarcus.com

St. John Leather-Trim Milano Wrap

This luxurious wrap in a wool/rayon blend with leather trim works well over jeans for casual fare or can be thrown on in the office when the air conditioning reaches it formidable summer pinnacle.

$895, neimanmarcus.com

Urban Splash-Flower Poncho

The beautifully crafted cloak from Urban Zen has “cape-sleeves,” an oxymoron if there ever was one, but we get the idea: it has a roomy fit with armholes. The tie-dye design hits the perfect balance between paying homage to capes’ hippie past, while synthesizing a new look that is distinctly modern.

$1,650, neimanmarcus.com

Eileen Fisher Twill Poncho from Reclaimed Cotton

The DNA of this  Eileen Fischer garment falls somewhere in between a wrap, a poncho, a tunic and a cape. But regardless of what you call it, the understated vestment works equally well over jeans or a plain shift dress, and provides the perfect amount of weather protection that spring’s changing winds requires. We love that it is made from reclaimed cotton! The landfills already have enough of our discarded clothing.

$168, neimanmarcus.com

Vince Camuto Milano Cape-Style Blazer

With split sleeves, an open neckline and no closures, the Vince Camuto Milano Cape-Style Blazer is the ultimate in breezy spring style. It can add dimension to a denim shirt, or be paired a pencil skirt for a alluring take on suiting.

$139, macys.com

Fendi Cape Coat in Wool & Fox Fur

Granted, this Fendi number is not the most practical item on our list, but it is spectacular. Meticulous wool tailoring and frivolous fox fur pockets give the Fendi Cape Coat a 60s It-Girl vibe.

$3,850, nordstrom.com

Halston Heritage Sheer Capelet

A strapless dress becomes infinitely more wearable when you add a sheer capelet to cover your shoulders. Perfect for attending a summer wedding or a garden party.

$165, bloomingdales.com

Alexander McQueen Swallow-Print Poncho

The designer Alexander McQueen always had a fascination with birds, going back to his earliest collections. Sarah Burton, the head designer of McQueen since his untimely death in 2010, has always sought to move the McQueen aesthetic into the future while remaining faithful to Alexander’s original vision. But you don’t need to know all that to love this wool swallow-print poncho. Its chic design and flawless Italian construction speak for themselves.

$270, saksfifthavenue.com

Becken Blanket Poncho

The Becken Blanket Poncho is really more of a caftan, but tomato, tomahto, it looks fabulous over a pair of jeans. Made of a proprietary blend of cotton/nylon/elastane and Alpaca wool, it holds its shape through all kinds of wear, and will protect you from the spring winds, if not the Ides of March.

$358, saksfifthavenue.com

Alice + Olivia Kamala Poncho

Halfway between an open-front cardigan and a chic blanket, the Kamala Poncho from Alice + Olivia is a great way to punch up your style in spring, and when the winter winds start up on the other side of summer, the knit poncho can be worn over your winter coat for added insulation.

$173.25, saksfifthavenue.com

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